‘Tis the Season for Cheesy Romantic Comedies

It’s 4pm, 3 days before xmas, I’m in my pyjamas, I’ve not bought a single gift, and ice-pellets have turned the sidewalks into a slip-and-slide. I see no reason to get up from the couch, except maybe to get more food. It’s the jolliest time of year!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’ve got my own coping mechanisms for dealing with the stressful festivity we call “Christmas.” Once again, I’ve carefully considered my options and decided to go nowhere and see no one. I love having a couple of days off and I, in no way, wish to spend that time driving on icy roads or stuck in an airport. Instead, I’m going to catch up on my tv watching and perhaps take in some fluffy romantic comedies.

Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon being much too cute in the popular romcom, Love Actually

Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon being much too cute in the popular romcom, Love Actually (2003)

As the most hopeless of romantics, nothing makes me feel cozier than a watching a light-hearted love story. The problem with this particular genre, however, is that so much of it is offensive to me as a woman and as a person with a brain. And I know that everyone LOVES Love Actually, but I happen to think it’s horribly manipulative with it’s sappy widower, singing children, and a bumbling Hugh Grant as Prime Minister (for crying out loud!). It fails to touch my heart. Then again, maybe it’s just that there are too many separate story lines and I’ll take a grand novel over a short story collection any day.

That said, when I do find a romcom that I like, I can watch it over and over. Not all of the following 15 films are master cinematic achievements, but they all somehow get me down to my mushy core without insulting my intelligence [too much].

Traditional Romance: None of these stray very far from the conventional narrative arc and that’s just fine by me — Things start off ok but not great, then everything goes wrong, and then fate intervenes and love wins (jeez, I hope I didn’t just spoil the ending for you!).

The Holiday (2006): Cameron Diaz lives in Los Angeles, Kate Winslet is in a quaint town outside of London; these 2 unlucky-in-love women, fed up with their lives, decide to swap homes at xmas time. In their new surroundings, they learn to let go of negative patterns and open up to love. Truly, it’s perfect for the holidays.

Moonstruck (1987): This is about the power of the sexy sexy! Cher is about to marry safe, boring Danny Aiello when she meets his estranged brother, the slightly crazy Nicolas Cage. She becomes a transformed woman under the spell of passion! Cher and Nicolas Cage are just so good…


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953): Air-headed Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) likes a rich man and her wise-cracking sidekick Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) is a sucker for a good-looking penniless guy. They get on a ship headed for Paris; wackiness ensues. Monroe and Russell, better known for their, um, considerable assets, were real comedic geniuses! This film is pure charm.

Just Wright (2010): A chubby homegirl can land a hot rich pro basketball player, right? Even though I have no interest in basketball whatsoever, I watched this movie twice in a row the first time I saw it. I think it’s because the 2 leads, Queen Latifah and Common, play complex flawed individuals who get to know each other deeply. Plus there’s an evil step-sister you’ll love to hate (double plus, Clair Huxtable is in this!).

Crazy Stupid Love (2011): This movie is the Love Actually antidote; the kids are weird (and they DON’T SING), situations are awkward, and there’s a Dirty Dancing inspired master move. Also, Emma Stone is hilarious, I could watch her all day long (for further proof, see Easy A). Ryan Gossling is charmingly slick… I could also watch him all day long but for entirely different reasons. And Steve Carrell is the perfect mix of puppy dog and mature adult.

Serendipity (2001): This one stretches the suspension of disbelief muscle a little, but we want to believe that fate is on our side and so we go along. They meet, spend a wonderful day together and, instead of making future plans, they leave it to chance by writing her number in a used copy of Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera that he may, or may not ever find. For true romantic souls and John Cusack fans only.

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity. I even went to that super cheesy restaurant the first time I visited New York City.

John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity. I even went to that super cheesy restaurant the first time I visited New York City.

The Artsies: Some romcoms break the mold a little. Warning: happy ending not guaranteed with these.

Annie Hall (1977): I know Woody Allen isn’t for everyone, but almost anyone who is a little odd or cerebral should enjoy Annie Hall. I’ve heard it’s the only comedy ever to have won a Best Picture Oscar. It’s just a really great film about a messy relationship. And the lobster scene is brilliant!

Stranger Than Fiction (2006): Despite the surreal plot (Will Ferrell begins hearing a narrator and tries to figure out what kind of story he’s in), I actually relate to this romantic comedy the most. It’s the story of an anarchist baker and a tax man who are drawn to each other despite their differences. It’s also a tale of personal transformation and of artistic integrity. Very impressive performances throughout.

(500) Days of Summer (2009): This is a touching film because we’ve all been there. Watching it, we recognize the foolishness and helplessness of our younger selves falling head over heels for the wrong person. Some might find it annoyingly cool and clever (her name is Summer and she sings Sugartown at karaoke), but it remains skillful story-telling.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Though funny at times, this movie kind of breaks my heart because I’ve often thought many of us are just a few tragic steps away from becoming completely disassociated from reality. And that’s what happens to Lars, played by Ryan Gossling, when he gets a girlfriend. It’s very moving to watch this man trying to cope and engage with the world.

A Trio of Meg Ryan: Meg Ryan sure has been in a lot of romantic comedies. And she’s really good in them! She has a sort of radiant, fresh quality about her. It’s just too bad about what happens to her face… watch as Meg’s lips mysteriously swell up like an allergic reaction over the years.

When Harry Met Sally (1989): This has to be the best romcom ever made, am I right? Nora Ephron wrote many lovely things with this at the pinnacle. Billy Crystal’s rant about how men and women can’t be friends is still pertinent and debatable all these years later. And never mind the restaurant orgasm scene, Crystal’s tongue twister is the classic for me. The message: love can only happen when we’re ready for it.

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in the first meeting scene of When Harry Met Sally

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in the first meeting scene of When Harry Met Sally

Prelude to a Kiss (1992): This is based on a play and it feels very off-Broadway, even in film form. What I like about this strange soul-swapping tale is that Ryan’s character, Rita, is anxious and rather malcontent, but Peter, played by Alec Baldwin, falls for her anyway. Not only that, but he becomes alarmed by her suddenly softer personality despite the reassurances of everyone around him that, no no, it’s normal, people change. And he does everything he can to get her back.

Kate & Leopold (2001): Jane Austen addicts, this is the movie for you. It feeds into a desire to escape to a simpler time, as well as to be wooed by a proper gentleman. In this case, it’s a time-travelling Hugh Jackman! Hot.

Based on Pride & Prejudice: And speaking of Jane Austen, her classic tale of love among the stubborn, Pride and Prejudice, has inspired some unexpected things…

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001): He likes her just as she is, aw. The first Bridget Jones adaption is fantastic and very true to the book (stay away from the second movie, however). And what a coup to have gotten Colin Firth, who was Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries with which Bridget is obsessed, to play Bridget’s Mr. Darcy too — very meta.

Bride & Prejudice (2004): A Bollywood Pride & Prejudice!!! Your initial reaction to reading those words is probably a good indication of whether or not you should see it. I enjoy it tremendously, and not just because my long-time crush Naveen Andrews is in it (as the Bingley character). It’s just fun. Aishwarya Rai is the perfect Indian Elizabeth Bennet; I only wish Darcy was a bit more charismatic.

Please share your guilty romcom pleasures in the comments!


  1. I know I’m over six months late to your post but I agree with a lot of your choices and although I haven’t seen Kate and Leopold I do love Prelude to a Kiss very much.
    It’s surprising that it is so underrated. The cast, the plot, the atmosphere, the…. everything in this movie was great. Meg Ryan was approaching the peak of her career, and her character Rita packed so much punch for me. You can feel the melancholy emanating from her in that scene when she first took Alec Baldwin’s character home.That he fell in love with her was really crazy but on the other hand, so completely understandable. It’s exactly what love really is.I like how this movie questioned both love and life in a way that doesn’t make me think I should go to Europe tomorrow because life is short. Am I making sense? Probably not!.

    • Thanks for your comment, Paul. Agreed, the characters in Prelude to a Kiss are very touching. As a librarian, I also like that Peter works in microfilm!
      I checked out your blog and just had to look up Wolf, another one of my guilty pleasures… I too like the transformation of the human characters into something more wild.

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